C h a n d a m a a l, fondly called by me , my brothers, sisters children, elders , one and all other relatives as K a k n i , was my pretty mother.
The elders would address her with respect as Kakinjigri — ‘jigri’ complimenting for madam.
My mother and I had strong special bond being youngest among brothers , I had somehow grown up hankering with such bright idea about my mother’s fondness for me was more than any one else.
But soon after ,this bright idea of mine about my mother’s special fondness came to abrupt end when I saw mother hugging my two elder brothers pressed against her bosom showering a rain of kisses on their ruddy cheeks.
In anger I blurted out in chaste Kashmiri ‘ accha yeh aus sori apuzu che chuk moin saraney khute toth” meaning “it was all a lie you were telling me that I am your most loved one of all.”
‘ hata phetir bata kata, mauj che aasan sarai bacchai taeth’.
literary meaning “you stupid Pandit boy mother loves all her children alike”, my mother continued sarcastically explaining her love for all of us pulling me with her arms and smooched me warmly.
All of us laughed loudly and dispersed.
Kakni was brightly complexioned petite beautiful woman with deep-set eyes, long brilliant dark hair worn in two plaits like a school girl. In contrast to her my father, Baigash as we called him lovingly , was tall around six feet with dusky complexion and was eldest of all his three brothers Shyam lal, Premnath, and Dawarka nath.
All were bonded by love and great affection for one another.
Dawarkanath lived in Delhi with his doctor wife, Mohanji and two fondly children son Bupesh and daughter Naina .
My youngest aunt Dr Mohanji was attractive ,reflective and looked pretty when she smiled.
Ours was a joint family and all lived in a beautiful bungalow in karan-nagar Srinagar Kashmir.
The drawing room was the most attractive room in the house. we had ten willow chairs and a big Kashmiri wall to wall carpet . The ceiling was carved and walls were painted in light golden hue. A long wicker sofa was covered with embroidered Namda, a maetris of pure wool.
A large glass paneled cabinet Crockery almirah stood in the corner of the room.
It had Chinese crockery of cups, saucers, and beautiful bone china dinner plates .
A lot of other decorative knick -knacks to make it look more gorgeous.
Large Family portraits hung from the side of the window wall.
A large garden with beautiful flowers of roses, hyacinth, Amaranth, marigold adored our house.Seven huge cherry plants, apricots and mulberry trees stood at the back of our house all along the brick wall of the courtyard and thus enhanced the charm of bungalow.in totality.
My mother Kakni wore sari draped over her broad shoulders leaving head uncovered.
She preferred to have big round vermilion spot in the middle of her broad forehead.
She had forsaken longtime back wearing typical Kashmiri Pa n d i t a n i costume ‘Pheran’ —- A loose c o l o u r f u l gown with ‘Tarang’ – headgear , Loong – a c o l o u r f u l belt and puuch – long white scarf touching the back of feet. and finally Zari embroidered hem line.
The neck collar of gown was brightly embroidered as well.
All such bright attires of yesteryears were forbidden now. Sari wearing was less complicated , much easier to drape on one’s body and obviously a preferred dress by women all over the country.
She had more of a demure shy personality ,usually taciturn but highly conscious of her gait and possessed a commanding voice to instill a fear among all children to adhere to the discipline in the house.
she would shout with stern looks at the scurrying , shouting rowdy children .
Children and younger ones were naturally afraid of her, although she never rebuked or spanked anyone for that matter.
But I remember once she spanked me severely when I spilled the ink on the carpet in the living room.
I and my cousin Kanwarji were very close friends , young and frisky, just eleven years old, studying in same class same school in the close vicinity of our home.
We decided to feign illness to bunk the school to spend a nice time gossiping and eating cherries.
Kanwar was a tall lanky one ,I was short hefty but thrifty enough to climb the top of the trees to nimble at the fruits.
It was a pleasant morning ,the sun rays gleaming through our windows in the early March of 1956.
I succeeded in coaxing and cajoling my mother to bunk school feigning stomach ache as planned.
Kanwarji on his part had also managed to pleasantly hoodwink her mother Bhabi for bunking the classes.
All was carried on meticulously.
By 10 am all family members young old had left for schools colleges ,offices and all was silent in the house.
Kakni with her two young ‘Dirkaknis’ –sisters in law , Bhabi and Mataji pulled out three wicker chairs from living room into large Verandah for a possible gossip hour over steaming cups of tea.
Bhabi ,my aunty, wife of my uncle Babuji, was fair with slightly heavy features but had curly dark hair ,and Mataji ,my second aunt, wife of my uncle Pitaji was very beautiful much younger having somewhat chiselled features with golden hair cascading over her shoulders.
Kakni seated herself on her favourite chair with fluffy back, flanked both sides by Bhabi and Mataji. as on a dais of a conference hall.
Kakni asked with authority Mataji to make ‘sheer chai’ pink tea , tea with salt instead of sugar , commonly taken those days. Even now we Kashmiris drink this tea with great pleasure.
Soon they were taking tea and enjoying their jokes amidst peals of laughter.
we did not understand the jokes they were cutting on . But all had good chemistry amongst themselves and respected one another immensely.
As they were busy in their glorious gossip picnic, Kanwar and I went to climb the trees for an appreciable hunt of fruits ,the juicy cherries and apricots . After having our fill we tumbled down calmly and found the gossiping trio rounding off the joyful time for more pending kitchen works.
Women had to do lot of domestic daily chores, like cleaning of utensils, cooking , sweeping scrubbing floors and all related works as no maids were available in Kashmir .
Hence no respite for a second even for all womenfolk. Ah our Poor mothers.
Kakni used to light the kitchen fire the breakfast activity started stirring up and Bhabi and Mataji joined her in the kitchen works. every morning right in the nick of time.
The house was soon agog by the shouting children jostling along to eat, bathe, and find school satchels .
Mataji would send me for bringing at least two dozens of tandoori Rotis from Hindu Kashmiri bakery for the breakfast.
I would gladly go with a big cloth bag for this errand in particular because the bakery owner Raja would give me one hot ‘katlam’ a thick pancake to eat. This bakery item is round crisp one laced with ghee.
Ghee is clarified butter made from the milk of cow used commonly in cooking delicious dishes.
All would sit cross-legged and barefooted on floor to eat the breakfast.
My second aunt Bhabi was quite adept in making hot stuffed Parathas and all older girls boys would gulp down a few such nice ones before finally getting up for going to schools or colleges.
Days, months and years passed by. The Joint Kitchen had split into three and we had grown up completing graduations some in engineering ,some few in medicine and others in sciences or arts.
All of us were heading for different destinations to eke out our living .
Kakni and her other two companions Bhabi and Mataji had grown up somewhat older but were connected with great affection and bond of love . They passed time filled with moments of great emotions in a very affable manner .
They all had steely energy to move forward and would never encourage domestic squabbles. amongst themselves.
My elder brother Bhaipyare was more divinely person and would love his parents more than any one of us , thus would be reluctant to serve away from the home. After completing higher education in the field of Agriculture ,he got good job in the valley itself .My eldest brother Baitote as I fondly called him was in Delhi serving as an Architect.My Delhi uncle Baiji as we called him and his wife Dr Mohanji was instrumental in making Baitote to settle down in Delhi comfortably. He lived with them for a considerable time before moving to an independent apartment in the same vicinity.
My other brothers sisters .including cousins found jobs near home and everybody seemed happily settled at least for the time being.
I got job in Pune . and my younger sister Anita got upset as she would not like me to travel so far away . I consoled her “ look I could not find a job here for last one year ,so I got some opening in Pune. . Baipyara, Kakni Baigash are all here with you, more over your all cousins, so lovely ones , to care of you.” “I need to do something worthwhile. Don’t you want I should be earning my livelihood.” I continued placating her softly, stressing my point with a prideful smile curving my mouth. My sister looked convinced. she was alike her mother to a T except for her swarthy complexion.
My mother Kakni was very upset practically dumbfound dispirited too but apparently wearing a brave face with a forced smile .
She joined me in comforting Anita by declaring in emphatic manner “ your brother needs to be a great man so do not worry he needs to go.”
My enthusiasm to join my job at Pune was high and now possibly off the chart.
My Father Baigash was firm to his fingertips and announced in unmistakable terms that my going to Pune was final and irrevocable.
I began my journey way back in early 1970 to Pune.
I can recall very well Kakni was a magnificient lady both in looks and thoughts. She was kind-hearted and always helped people with whatever she could.
I knew her benevolent nature would guide me to right path and I would emerge finally successful in my all endeavours of life.
And years after I solemnly realize the power behind such prophecies – the inspiring blessings from parents ,elders. take one to great unbelievable heights in life.
And Kakni’s blessings also speak for me.